Summary: God wants to use our tests to provide a testimony.
It seems like everywhere you look today, there is someone who is predicting that troubled times are ahead. I've heard several who have claimed that our nation today is more divided than it has been since the days before the civil war. I'm not completely persuaded about that, but I do think our country is divided, and that many bemoan the fact that we are living in "troubled times."
A song by the group, "Green Day," takes up this theme. The song is called "Troubled times." The lyrics are as follows: "What good is love and peace on earth? When it's exclusive? Where's the truth in the written word? If no one reads it? A new day dawning. Comes without warning. So don't think twice. We live in troubled times. What part of history we learn? When it's repeated. Some things will never overcome. If we don't seek it. The world stops turning. Paradise burning. So don't think twice. We live in troubled times."
But we shouldn't be surprised that many decry the fact that the times are troubled. In fact, Jesus said that's the way life will always be in this world until He returns to make all things new.
"In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." - John 16:33 (NIV)
Paul and Silas were ministering in the city of Philippi when trouble befell them. (READ TEXT)
It seems that the work Paul and Silas were doing was perceived by some to be a threat to their business, so they had them arrested, flogged, and imprisoned. Ever have one of those days when things don't seem to be going too well? Well, it was certainly that kind of day for Paul and Silas, and I'm sure you've had a few of those, too.
Interestingly enough, some people mistakenly think that Christians are people who God promises to protect from problems and difficulties. On the contrary, God tells His children that since they belong to Him, not only do they have the usual difficulties that everyone else encounters as they live in this old world, but now they have Satan as an enemy, which can often compound the problems the Christian encounters.
But take heart! God has a purpose in allowing His children to deal with difficulty. His purpose is to use these times to reshape us into the image of His dear Son, and, in the process, allow us to show a lost world the difference a relationship with God can make in one's life.
You see, the Christian faces the same kinds of problems in this world that everyone else encounters - Christians have to deal with disease, losing their job, raising their kids, working through marriage problems, getting an education, losing a loved one, dealing with change, and living in a nation that is, at times, severely divided. Christians face many of the same kinds of troubles that everyone else does. The only difference is that they have a God to turn to in troubled times.
God's design is for Christians to bear testimony in troubled times to the difference God makes. And God uses our "tests" to allow us to present a "testimony." But how? Let's see what we can learn from the example of Paul and Silas. To bear testimony in troubled times . . .
1. We must give our attention to prayer - v.25a
Three ministers were talking about the appropriate and effective positions for prayer. As they were talking, a telephone repairman was working on the phone system in the background.
One minister shared that he felt the key was in the hands. He held his hands together and pointed them upward as a form of symbolic worship. The second suggested real prayer was conducted on your knees. The third said they both had it all wrong - the only position worth its salt was to pray while stretched out flat on your face.
By this time the phone man couldn't stay out of the conversation any longer. He interjected, "I found that the most powerful prayer I ever made was while I was dangling upside down by my heels from a power pole, suspended forty feet above the ground."
"Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need." - Hebrews 4:16 (NIV)
Every day of my life is a time of need, I just don't always realize it. But when I find myself facing troubled times, I become more aware of my need of the Lord. It's in those times especially, when I should turn to Him in prayer! As I do, I can rejoice in knowing I can come before His throne with confidence because I'm His child.